San Diego County

Business Owners, Politicians Vent Frustrations Over Pandemic Restrictions

The rally was organized by County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who spoke alongside El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey and frustrated business owners

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Small business owners combined voices Monday to denounce the latest round of county and state-imposed restrictions in front of the County administration building.

The “We Mean Business rally,” one of several promoted by County Supervisor Jim Desmond since the onset of the pandemic, was meant for small business owners to gather and share their stories of hardship and how restrictions are impacting their livelihoods.

NBC 7's Artie Ojeda heard from business owners denouncing state and county orders limiting businesses.

“I was finally able to just starting to pay some of my bills and now they're shutting it off again,” Peter San Nicolas, owner of Ramona Fitness Center, said. ‘What are we to do? I will just go out of business again. I have a family to support.”

San Nicolas was actually the first county business owner to be charged with opening indoors in defiance of public health orders. Those charges were later dropped, but the damage was done.

San Nicolas said he was barely able to make his house payment.

He was just one of several small business owners at the rally protesting restrictions that once again cut off indoor operations and his gym, as well as restaurants and places of worship.

“It's very frustrating, the yo-yo effect of going back to the purple (tier), a few cases forcing businesses to shut down,” Desmond said to the rally crowd.

One of the guest speakers was an Afghan American who came to this country and started a Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village with an immigrant friend.

Flaming Pho and Sushi Bar’s business was gaining traction before COVID-19 hit.

Then, "We had to cut down on staff,” owner Tariq Waisimi said. “Family -- we couldn't see family, you know, because we were working so much."

Waisimi said he followed public health orders. His staffers wore masks, he implemented social distancing at the front door and between tables, and he had an approved disinfecting regiment.

Despite his diligence, he’s relying on takout order, and the American Dream, to keep his business alive.

“I am an Afghan American who owns a Vietnamese and Japanese restaurant,” he told the crowd. “If that isn't American I don't know what it is."

About three dozen protesters kicked off the rally with a march from a downtown sports bar, down Broadway, to the county building.

It was virtually impossible to separate business hardship and politics. Many in attendance made displays of their support for President Donald Trump, and others called for a recall of Governor Gavin Newsom.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who supports the restrictions, said the Purple Tier is meant to save lives and we should work to protect each other.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, both against current restrictions, also spoke at the rally.

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